I had been to Kerala lately to attend my sister’s best friend’s Wedding. Trust me, it totally compelled me to write on Kerala, it’s culture, the historical Marriage Ceremony and the Kerala Bride!
Well, our Hindu Mythology has left a trail of words about the lands of Kerala that this land was recovered from the sea by the warrior sage Parashurama, the 6th avatar of Vishnu. Hence, Kerala is known as the Parasurama Kshetram. Another historical character who has been associated with Kerala is Mahabali, an Asura and just a king whose entire kingdom was the Earth. He won the war against the powerful Devas, driving them into exile. There is this belief that every year during the Onam festival, Mahabali comes back to Kerala.
Coming to the cultural point of view, Kerala’s culture is a mixture of all traditions and is cosmopolitan in nature. It is one of the prime and integral parts of Indian culture which been explained concisely by all the neighbouring states and overseas nations. But the geographical isolation of Kerala from the rest of the nation has resulted in the creation of a distinctive style of living and social institutions. More than a thousand festivals are celebrated in the state each and every year. The state calendar, a Malayalam solar calendar started back since 825 CE in Kerala which finds synonymous usage in agricultural planning and religious activities.
Then coming to the point of Marriages, in Kerala weddings are just a golden opportunity for people to richen it up even more. The big fat Indian Wedding.
To start off with details of the Kerala Bride, ‘Kasavu’ is the bride’s Wedding Attire! The most significant factor of any Kerala bride is undoubtedly her wedding attire. While it is quite normal for the brides to wear yellow or red on their marriage day in rest of the country, the Kerala bride mostly wears white. When the bridal ornament is concerned, the Kerala bride is adorned in gold. Whichsoever religion the bride might belong to, this one criterion holds the same for all. Gold is preferred over diamonds or any other gorgeous stone! The bride typically wears too much of gold: as it reflects her family’s status! The more is the gold, the richer she is! She wears chains and necklaces of different lengths. The shortest one being a chocker necklace around her neck and the longest one reaching up to the waist. On her ears, she puts on a big jhumka or an earring with some ethnic and ancient design. A set of gold bangles beautify her hands and to cinch the waist, a gold waist chain is used.
A co-traveller of mine from another province asked if people of Kerela bought gold in kilos? She was returning back after attending this typical Kerala wedding and our jaws had dropped as she watched the Kerela bride made her shy way to the decorated stage who was literally bent to the form of the comma by the jewellery weight on her. When the bride went to stop at the centre of gravity of the stage, she turned her gaze towards the wedding guests with a dignified reverence compelled on her due to the liable obligations. Someone from behind had exclaimed “Oh Gosh! Too much gold! Kerela must be extravagantly rich.”
“Obviously!,” I replied from behind. “Kerala’s bride is gold, after all, I mean Kerela’s pride. Haven’t you noticed the billboards advertising ornaments showrooms on the way here? The models must have been from the north, but the buyers are undoubted native. And there isn’t the jewellery, then it is the silk saris, which is woven with pure gold thread, that seem to surge temptingly out of the hoardings.Kerela, the state of Gold finally welcomes you”
Those days are absolutely gone when conciseness used to be the soul of Kerala weddings. The long back lost refreshingly short weddings were the ones such that the ceremony used to get over as soon as it had summoned. And the guests who had missed the bus or were delayed were taken to their immense pleasure, straight away to the dining room!
One of the most commendable features of a Malayali marriage is the simplicity of the wedding’s participants. In last half a century, the nation has seen the shift from the uncomplicated Kerela bride, clothe in a graceful silk sari wearing the minimal jewellery on herself to flow her cascading beauty, to the heavily ornamented avatar of today. Not just the Kerela Bride, but he guy-to-marry, the groom too has experienced a thorough makeover. The customary dhoti and the simple, crisp white shirt are now worn out ideas; he clads himself in too – an overly ostentatious silk kurta and a bright white dhoti. Anyway, he could have preferred a Bridal Sherwani but not to forget that it’s practical tough to sit cross-legged in the wear. To finish off with the picture, he showcases proudly a beauty-parlour face and a haircut stamped on his head by some expert hair stylist.
Marriages aren’t the ceremonies any further; they are events ever since a lot many event managing companies have come up to make them the ‘shows’ on our planet. They just go beyond the limits to outshine each other in creativity with the outcome that there are the weddings with proper themes, amalgamed weddings, and expensive destination weddings. The guests to be invited to the function receive a card that is heavily shining and fashion designed, around 3-4 pages, stone-fitted and a perfumed brochure than a plain and simple card. Each of the leaves would give you a ride through the perplexing programmes planned and only the close readings would state to you the actual where(s) and when(s).
Today’s most of the Indian Weddings are headed forward by an elaborate engagement ceremony and have thus transformed into ‘events’ lasting for over a few days. I still do recall the wonderful and thought-evoking speech made by an ex-officer, a non-Keralite, on of the College Day functions. He said it was truly unfortunate that the state Kerala, lieu setting an example to rest of the nation with its simple and short wedding ceremony, was also borrowing extravaganza from the overly done glittery functions of the north Indian states. ‘Mehendi’, ‘sangeet’ and ‘haldi’ ceremonies followed by richly done receptions attended by almost half of the world have also become a part of South Indian weddings. He went on to mention that the Kerela Brides take the lead in order express courage and pride in changing the trend. The moustachioed officer’s speech sadly was not as received as warmly as it should have been.
Unfortunately, marriages are only getting more and more rich day by day. They showcase in front of us a phenomenal case of attention seeking just for gaining social prestige.
Trust me, the highs and lows of the gold market have never really put an impact om the buyers’ pocket here. When I interrogated an acquaintance(already a Kerela Bride) about why did she not put a full stop to this madness for gold and unwanted show of wealth, she certainly reverted back worrying about what would the people say?
When I wanted to find out who are these “people” she referred to, she reeled off very casually by naming all the far off relatives, guests and neighbours. I believed the guests should be given at least something to say. But the Kerela Bride seemed to be much more worried than her parents about their ‘self-respect’ in the society!
Oh yes! The goes a word. Too much for the liberated and modern class of woman. And it’s better not to talk about the groom who maintains a selective silence when the wedding plans are made.
Mentioning about one of the famous Malayalam weddings where the groom was received by a caparisoned elephant! Needless to say about the lunch which was just beyond delicious compromising of the 26 varieties of dishes that was served!